THE FIRST Winchester Poetry Festival is on its way.
Over three days, the cream of Hampshire’s poetic talent will be centre stage. Thirty poets will visit the city, participating in a total of 26 events. Poets with a connection to the county – young and old, established and emerging, past and present – will all feature, including one of Britain’s most successful and popular poets Brian Patten.
Normally associated with Liverpool, Patten lived in Winchester during the late Sixties when the famous Merseyside poet wanted to escape the media circus. He found the city “misty, ancient and quiet” and it provided a productive and creative environment for his writing.
Kate Firth, who was brought up in Winchester, will lead a workshop on performance skills for aspiring writers who want to deliver their poems live. Formerly an actress, Kate is the expert’s expert: she coached her older brother Colin to prepare for his role as George VI in The King’s Speech.
Joan McGavin, Hampshire Poet 2014, is joined by six other leading local poets - Robyn Bolam, Stephen Boyce, John Haynes, Nick MacKinnon, Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard - who will present a snapshot of the county’s contemporary poetry scene in a joint reading: Hogwords, Hampshire Poets Now.
In addition, student poets from three of Hampshire’s sixth form colleges (Alton College, Itchen College and Peter Symonds College) will showcase their work in Slamdunk Hants the county’s first-ever school poetry slam.
In its debut year, Winchester Poetry Festival commemorates World War One with a number of key events, including Roads from Hampshire, a talk by Professor Edna Longley on the life and work of Edward Thomas, Hampshire’s foremost poet and one of the country’s most enduringly popular writers.
2014 also sees the centenary of the birth of Hampshire legend John Arlott. Before his remarkable career as “the voice of cricket”, Arlott was a BBC poetry producer and practising poet. He is celebrated in an affectionate tribute by former England cricket captain Michael Brearley and his acclaimed biographer David Rayvern.
Visitors to the Festival can enjoy a free walking tour, which explores sites of special poetic interest around Winchester.
Stephen Boyce, one of the Festival’s two artistic directors and himself a published poet, said: “We want to put poetry on the map in this part of England and give audiences a shot in the arm with some of the UK’s best, including Hampshire’s home-grown talent.”
The festival takes place from September 12-14 and centres around Winchester Discovery Centre.
Some events are free whilst others have an admission charge.
Find the programme online at winchesterpoetryfestival.org.